Search

 

Cablegate: Police Break Up Land Rights Protests Even As Gvn Promises To

VZCZCXRO7043
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHNH
DE RUEHHM #0766/01 2001114
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 191114Z JUL 07
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2895
INFO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 2055
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 3097

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HO CHI MINH CITY 000766

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS - D.SHANNON DORSEY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL SOCI ECON VM
SUBJECT: POLICE BREAK UP LAND RIGHTS PROTESTS EVEN AS GVN PROMISES TO
REOPEN DISPUTED CASES

REF: HCMC 706, HCMC 625 AND PREVIOUS

HO CHI MIN 00000766 001.2 OF 003


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Twenty six days of continuous protests by
land rights activists came to an end at 10 PM (Vietnam time) on
July 18 when police forcibly removed remaining land rights
protesters from their position in front of the HCMC Assembly
building. Despite allegations of excessive police violence
received from overseas groups, local observers -- including
participants in the demonstration -- report that the dispersal
was largely peaceful. Most protesters had voluntarily left
early in the day due to what appears to have been a combination
of promises of swift, objective reviews of their grievances and
police warnings that they would be forcibly removed if they did
not leave on their own. While it is too early to determine
whether GVN promises of aggressive action to resolve protesters'
grievances will be fulfilled, some local observers are focusing
less on the fact that the protest was liquidated than on the
fact that the GVN both allowed it to continue for nearly a
month, in the end making numerous public concessions to the land
rights activists. Various factors, including heightened
political sensitivity in the run-up to the opening of the 12th
session of the National Assembly, the intense international
attention to the protesters and direct financial and other
support from a banned dissident political group may have
precipitated GVN action to end the long-running demonstration.
END SUMMARY.

THE LAND RIGHTS MOVEMENT
------------------------
2. (SBU) As reported reftels, the issue that drew the roughly
800 to 1,000 ordinary Vietnamese from 18 provinces together was
their anger over what protesters described as illegal land grabs
and other schemes by which local officials defrauded peasants
and other small land owners of their property and denied them
just compensation. Protesters state that they attempted to
resolve their grievances through normal channels but were denied
justice due to direct meddling by the same well-connected
officials whom they accuse of stealing their land. Some
Vietnamese press, most notably the progressive HCMC-based paper
Tuoi Tre, have been reporting on these allegations for the past
year or more.

3. (SBU) The nearly one-month long action by protesters was well
organized and garnered significant coverage in international
media. Photos and reports from overseas Vietnamese of the
marches were then posted on the Internet, along with calls for
solidarity with those defending their rights. Activists
confirmed that the protest organizers did numerous interviews
with foreign radio organizations including Hoa Mai Radio, Radio
Free Asia and New Horizon Radio. They also stated that
protesters received financial assistance from overseas
Vietnamese groups, with the money sent to individuals in Ho Chi
Minh City who procure food, medical supplies and other goods and
services.

4. (SBU) ConGen HCMC stayed in direct contact with protesters
throughout their ordeal. One land rights activist from Tien
Giang province, home to the largest number of protesters,
identified the leaders of the protest as Ms. Cao Que Hoa, from
Cai Lay district, and Mr. Ba Trinh, from West Go Cong district,
both in Tien Giang province. (Note: Please protect all
identities. End Note.) Our contacts described a
highly-organized effort in which land rights protesters were
divided into "provincial teams" with elected representatives.
During the protest, leaders used a makeshift loudspeaker to
assign "duties" for each provincial team each day. One team,
for example, was instructed to march past the ConGen HCMC to
raise the protest's profile.

5. (SBU) While the GVN allowed the protests to continue for
nearly a month, official actions left no doubt that the GVN did
not appreciate the protesters' presence or high media profile.
Contacts in the Ho Chi Minh City-based progressive newspaper
Tuoi Tre told us they have received many letters from the land
protesters' relatives, complaining that they were intercepted
and interrogated by police after they brought food and clothes
to the protesters. Tuoi Tre contacts said that anyone who came
to the protest site and asked questions risked harassment by the
police. Pastor Duong Kim Khai from the Protestant Christian
Fellowship Church, a ConGen contact in the land rights movement,
informed us that police summoned him on July 13 to ask about his
role in the demonstrations. Khai told ConGen he attended as an
observer, but the police accused him of speaking out against the
government, instigating the protesters, and threatened to
incarcerate him if he continues his involvement. Khai noted
that the police also scolded him for talking to ConGen and
foreign radio organizations about the protest. To this date, he
has not been arrested.


HO CHI MIN 00000766 002.2 OF 003


6. (SBU) Beginning on July 13, the political mix became even
more volatile when four monks from the UBCV, an outlawed
Buddhist organization with a long history of clashes with the
GVN over their dissident political agenda, began publicly
supporting the protesters and provided them with 13 million VND
(approximately US$810) in financial support. A UBCV leader from
the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang told ConGen HCMC that
the UBCV's deputy leader, The Venerable Thich Quang Do -- a
fiery 90 year-old monk who has spent roughly 20 years in
detention for his democratic beliefs and his refusal to join the
government-sanctioned Buddhist Church -- personally directed the
UBCV's involvement. On July 17, Thich Quang Do personally
visited the land protesters and gave them an additional VND 300
million (approx. US$18,000). ConGen contacts reported Thich
Quang Do spoke by loudspeaker in front of approximately 1,000
protesters and observers, blamed the GVN one-party system for
the injustices and called for a multi-party system and better
representation.

DEPUTY PM COMES DOWN FROM HANOI
-------------------------------
7. (SBU) On July 15, two days after the first UBCV visit, Deputy
Prime Minister Truong Vinh Trong convened a meeting with
relevant agencies and provincial authorities in Ho Chi Minh City
to seek resolution to the protesters' grievances. According to
local media reports and ConGen media contacts, Trong ordered
local authorities to reopen the disputed cases and resolve them
as soon as possible. Local press reported Trong said that he
took personal responsibility for resolving the land rights
issues and held the heads of the provincial people's committees
accountable in resettlement of the protesters' claims. Some of
Trong's statements were more ambiguous. For example, Trong also
told authorities to initiate "strict reprimands and legal
actions against those who take advantage of land disputes to do
bad things", a potentially ominous comment aimed at protest
organizers and supporters such as the UBCV.

8. (SBU) Trong's forward-leaning comments were echoed in Hanoi,
where Poloff met with former Deputy Minister of Natural
Resources and the Environment, Dang Hung Vo, to discuss land
rights issues. Vo was candid during the meeting, stating that
the government is only now adding the infrastructure necessary
to deal with land compensation issues. Vo also believes that
greater access to the Internet will lead to fewer protests as
individuals are able to share their concerns directly with
government officials in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. He was well
aware of the protests in Ho Chi Minh City and added that
corruption and poorly trained provincial authorities are an
obstacle, and that "land officials in the provinces lack a sense
of justice and people in the rural areas know this and of course
are frustrated." Vo highlighted that the government will
receive a 5-year grant from the World Bank to train local and
provincial authorities on land issues starting in 2008. Vo
ended the meeting by stating that land rights will be the
biggest issue for the next ten years.

PROTESTERS SENT HOME; ORGANIZERS DETAINED
------------------------------------------
9. (SBU) At 10:00 PM on July 18 police dispersed the land rights
protesters. While the majority of protesters were persuaded to
leave after being promised resolution to their cases,
eyewitnesses told ConGen hundreds of police and local guards
blockaded the street and forcibly removed some protesters,
loading them into police trucks and buses owned by provincial
authorities. Though accounts sent to ConGen from overseas
supporters claimed violence was used to eject demonstrators,
early reports from eye witnesses claim injuries were minimal.
According to one relatives' report, however, at least 4 key
organizers remain in police detention this morning: Ms. Cao Que
Hoa, Mr. Ba Trinh, Ms. Vu Thanh Phuong, and Ms. Lu Thi Thu
Duyen.

10. (SBU) Tien Giang protesters (who made up the bulk of the
movement) were transported back home to a government office,
where they are to meet with provincial authorities to air their
grievances in a town hall meeting. Authorities of Dong Thap,
Tien Giang, Ben Tre, Soc Trang, Kien Giang provinces were also
quoted by local newspapers as setting specific dates for
meetings with protesters to resolve their claims.

COMMENT
-------
11. (SBU) The organizer's success in disseminating information
and garnering support for the land rights cause acted, as
designed, to raise the profile of the protests. This raised the
stakes for the government, sparking central-level involvement.
On one hand, growing pressure from dissident groups inside and
outside of Vietnam may have helped spur positive GVN action to

HO CHI MIN 00000766 003.2 OF 003


address concerns of the land rights protesters. On the other
hand, outside involvement, particularly direct financial support
from groups such as the UBCV, almost certainly strengthened the
hand of the faction within the GVN calling for a heavy
crackdown. The final outcome of this saga remains to be seen.
Post will continue to monitor the situation to determine if the
GVN's promise of swift and just reconsideration of the
protesters' claims results in concrete action. At the same
time, we will also be watching to see how the GVN handles the
cases of protest organizers. Mission Vietnam will also express
our concern over the fates of those detained, underscoring that
the world is watching. END COMMENT.

12. This cable was coordinated with Embassy Hanoi.
FAIRFAX

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Gordon Campbell: On The Washington Riot And The Georgia Results
Hong Kong and Washington DC. On the same morning, the tyrants in power in Beijing and their counterpart in the White House have shown how they refuse to accept the legitimacy of any different points of view, and the prospect of losing power… More>>

WHO: Vaccination No Guarantee Of Virus Eradication

In the final World Health Organization (WHO) COVID-19 press conference of the year, on Monday, senior officials warned that the virus is 'not necessarily the big one', and that there is a real chance of another, more serious pandemic spreading ... More>>

Covid: Two Billion COVID Vaccine Doses Secured, WHO Says End Of Pandemic Is In Sight

The end of the pandemic is in sight but we must not let our guard down, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday, as he welcomed the news that the global vaccine partnership COVAX has lined up almost two billion doses of existing ... More>>

UN: Guterres To Seek Second Five-year Term
António Guterres will be seeking a second five-year term as UN Secretary-General, which would begin in January 2022.... More>>


UN Rights Office: Iran Execution Of Child Offender Breaks International Law

The execution of an Iranian man for a crime allegedly committed when he was 16 years old has been condemned by the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) and raised concerns over violations of his right to a fair trial. In a statement released on Thursday, ... More>>

UN News: Fighting Displaces Over 500,000 In Northern Mozambique, Reports UN Refuge Agency

Attacks by armed groups in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado, Nampula, Zambezia and Niassa provinces have displaced more than 530,000 people, many of whom have been forced to move multiple times, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Friday. According to ... More>>